Information for families during the coronavirus outbreak

Information correct as at 18 January 2021


01   Travel

Declaration to travel overseas – The UK Government has introduced a new mandatory travel declaration form, for those who have a legally permitted reason to travel. This form should be completed before departing the UK, effective from 8 March 2021.

Exempt travel corridors – The UK Government has currently suspended all travel corridors, effective from 4am on 18 January 2021.

Test to travel to England – Travellers to England, including UK citizens, need to take a COVID-19 test three days in advance of starting their journey to England and be prepared to evidence a negative COVID-19 test, prior to boarding transport. Click here for more information.

Failure to present proof of a negative test result certificate may result in you being unable to board your transport to England or on arrival you may be fined. NB: The results must be in English, French or Spanish.

Travel test package – Before you travel you are now required to book and pay £210 for a travel test package through the following portal Use the booking portal to book your travel test package. (If you’re experiencing any difficulty booking through the booking portal, please phone +44 (0)1274 726424.)

Passenger locator form – Before you travel you are now required to complete a passenger locator form with details of where you will home quarantine when you arrive and the travel test package booking reference number.

Important things to do on arrival in England.

  • follow the national lockdown rules and travel directly to the location given on your passenger locator form.
  • quarantine /self-isolate for 10 days unless you have an exemption.
  • complete the travel test package – on day 2 and day 8 after arrival in the UK.

Travel from red list countries – If you are arriving into England and have visited or passed through a country on the list from which travel to the UK is banned, (sometimes called the ‘red list’) in the 10 days prior to your arrival then you are required by law to book a 10-day (11-night) managed quarantine package which includes your hotel stay, food and beverages, transfers, security and two COVID-19 tests. This is called the managed quarantine package.

Travel exemptions – There are some exemptions for test requirements: children under 11 years of age; travel within the Common Travel Area; Ascension, Falklands, St Helena; urgent medical reasons and for certain exempt jobs.

Whilst some MOD and Defence staff may qualify for some travel exemptions, these need to be approved by the chain of command. Families are advised to confirm with their chain of command if they are unsure and not assume that an exemption from self-isolating also gives an exemption from presenting a negative COVID-19 test.


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02   Families and MOD COVID-19 testing facilities

AFF has confirmed that dependants can access the Quarantine & Testing Operations Centre (QTOC) MOD testing facilities to obtain a COVID-19 test in the UK before duty travel to overseas locations. There are testing facilities all over the UK, but the following conditions apply:

  • Individuals should not apply direct to the QTOC. Applications should be made via the chain of command.
  • Applications should be submitted at the earliest opportunity, ideally 2-3 weeks in advance and no later than 7 days in advance of confirmed travel.
  • MOD centres conduct PCR tests only and are not available for Test to Release purposes.

However, it is important to note that as many host nations require tests to be conducted within 72 hours or less, when travelling time is taken into consideration, the QTOC option may not be the best one as they cannot always guarantee the results in 72 hours.

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03   Border restrictions, quarantine and travel - Guidance for Service personnel and families based overseas

The MOD has issued guidance for families based overseas with regards to travel to the UK.

It has issued a Defence Advisory Note (DAN 18) and some FAQs on this. A summary of the key questions is available below:

Do my child and I need to self-isolate when returning to the UK to return my child to boarding school?
Service personnel and their families should adhere to the current and local Government guidance on self-isolating when returning to the UK.

Information on current self-isolation, pre-travel testing and in-isolation testing in England is available here.

Self-isolation on entry to a devolved nation: There are different self-isolation rules and penalties if you’re travelling to one of the devolved nations:  ScotlandWales or Northern Ireland

Exemption – Some families may be able to apply for a Personnel Resilience Exemption if they feel they have a case for an exemption from these regulations, due to their need to return and collect their child from a UK boarding school.

What is a Personnel Resilience Exemption?
For resilience and welfare purposes, an exemption from self-isolation may be approved for Service personnel or their dependants on a non-operational overseas posting, where they have been constrained in their ability to return to the UK where they have children at a UK boarding school and travel is required for collection or escort, or to provide care. You still have to provide your journey and contact details on the passenger locator form.

How do I apply?
Service personnel and dependants will need to put a case through their chain of command. This will likely need to include:

  • Why they or their family member need to return to the UK
  • Why self-isolation is not an option for them
  • What evidence or extenuating circumstances they have for being exempt.

Who will make the decision?
The application will be decided on a case-by-case basis by their command 2*, who may delegate their authority to decide to a local 1*. Exemption will be reported centrally and open to audit.

If I receive an exemption, will this apply to the whole of the UK?
No, the policy is currently only for travel into England and Wales. The MOD is in discussion with the devolved administrations with regards to similar arrangements in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

When did this start?
21 November 2020.

If I am granted a Personnel Resilience Exemption, does this mean I no longer need a guardian for my children at boarding school?
No, even if you are granted exemption, your child’s school should still have up-to-date details for a UK-based guardian who is able and willing to look after your child if there is a need for a period of self-isolation before they return to school. You should ensure you have a reserve guardian who could stand in if needed.

If I am granted a Personnel Resilience Exemption, does this mean that my school has to accept my child back without self-isolating?
You would need to discuss this with your school.

Does a Personnel Resilience Exemption have an impact on other COVID-19 related restrictions?
No, Service personnel and their families should still adhere to local and Government restrictions with relation to COVID-19 (e.g. wearing of face masks, remaining two metres apart from those outside their household etc).

Can I get a Personnel Resilience Exemption for any other reason?
The exemption may be considered for other reasons, such as married personnel or those in established long-term relationships (as recorded on JPA) being able to visit their spouse/long-term partner in the UK; to comply with court directed child access arrangements; or where the chain of command assess it is required for welfare reasons.

There is some potential exemption for compassionate and medical reasons.

Where can I get more information on this?
The Service person should obtain DAN 18 from Defence Connect or their chain of command.

If you have any queries about being an Army family overseas, please contact overseasmgr@aff.org.uk

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04   Other FAQs for families based overseas with children at UK boarding school

Do my child and I need to self-isolate when returning to the UK to return my child to boarding school if I do not have a Personnel Resilience Exemption?
If you do not have a job that qualifies you for a travel exemption, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days.

From 15 December 2020 international travellers, except those travelling from ‘red list’ countries, have the option to opt into the new Test to Release system to exit quarantine early.

Further information can be found here.

What additional flexibility is there with SCVs and extra costs incurred due to COVID-19 related mandatory travel regulations in the UK and in the overseas host nation?
The MOD released new information on 22 February 2021 which provides for greater flexibility and financial support for school children’s visits (SCVs) for those overseas and also confirms that mandatory COVID-19 testing can be claimed.

Other FAQs :

Does the parent escorting a child back to the UK need to self-isolate for the full 10 days before returning overseas?
The full 10-day period of self-isolation does not need to be completed if the parent is not in the country for that length of time. However, you would need to self-isolate for the length of time you stay in the UK up to a maximum of 10 days.

For more information on government guidance on self-isolation requirements please see the Entering the UK information on the Government website.

What do we do if our airline is no longer offering an unaccompanied minors service during COVID-19?
The MOD has given five options which we have listed below. The options are listed in the order they should be considered. It is important to speak to your chain of command before any booking to discuss the best option suitable for your family:

  1. Your child could stay at boarding school if it is open and offering a self-isolation period, then you would need to return overseas immediately.
  2. Your child stays with their nominated guardian and you return overseas immediately.
  3. You and your child could stay in one of the welfare houses in the UK.
  4. You and your child can stay with family and friends.
  5. Where none of the above options are suitable for your family, yourself and your child could stay in a hotel.

If you have any questions or require more information, please ask your serving partner to speak to their chain of command, their admin support unit or the MOD Families Section.

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05   BFPO

If you live overseas and need guidance about BFPO services during COVID-19, please see its website for the most up-to-date information.

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06   Are you and your family due to be posted overseas?

The MOD has released a new directed letter which gives families, who have children or are CEA claimants, the option to serve unaccompanied and be classed as involuntarily separated (INVOLSEP) until the end of August 2021. For more information please see the directed letter.

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